Andra Hem

January 2023 Update

posted in: Drawing, Photography, Reading, Writing | 0

January always seems like such a long month. Part of that might be adjusting to returning to work after our winter break. Part of it might be how dark it can be considering the early sunsets, the late sunrises, and the often gloomy weather. And, of course, it’s 31 days long.

I’m always glad when January is over. Although February can still be wintery in Philadelphia, it’s a short month, and we’re gaining a little more daylight every day.

That’s not to suggest that January was all bad. Holly and I managed to have some fun. Although it was often gloomy, it has been a mild winter so far. We’ve been willing to venture out on a few occasions.

We tried a couple of new places. After work one day, we stopped by Andra Hem, a Scandinavian-inspired cocktail lounge, for a couple of cocktails. It was in its soft-opening phase so it wasn’t very crowded. They have both a downstairs and an upstairs bar. We sat upstairs which felt especially relaxing. We went after our first day back to campus so “especially relaxing” was what we needed.

We also tried Luna BYOB which replaced another Italian restaurant, Casta Diva, which we had liked. I believe it is run by a few of the same people. We both really enjoyed it and thought it was even better than the previous incarnation.

We also got out to the movies with a friend of ours. It was our first non-film-festival movie since before the pandemic started. We saw the intriguing Women Talking.

Another fun adventure was walking to our favorite stationery store, Omoi Zakka, to get the new Traveler’s Diner notebook. We both have basic Traveler’s Notebooks but have never gotten any of their special editions. We really liked this year’s theme of the diner so we decided to each get one.

I’m not a huge football fan, but I started watching the Philadelphia Eagles partway through the season since they had been playing well. In January, I got to watch them win a couple playoff games and earn their way to a Super Bowl appearance. Philadelphians are really into their sports so it’s been nice seeing everyone so happy and thrilled.


Thanks to the mild weather, I was able to get out and take some photos.

I already posted about the roll of Metropolis I took with my Canon AE-1. I also went out 3 other times with film cameras but still haven’t finished those rolls.

One day before we took our Christmas tree down, I took pictures of some of our new Christmas ornaments as well as our old LOVE ornament with my Nikon Z fc and the 28mm f/2.8 lens. A couple of our new ornaments were made by our friend, Lisa Kurt, whose art we really enjoy. For some reason, I also took a picture of some Washi tape. I guess I was feeling a little bored and restless and needed to take some pictures!

I also finished 2 photography-related LinkedIn Learning tutorials: Lightroom Classic Essential Training and Essentials of Masking in Photoshop and Lightroom. Although I use Lightroom Classic all the time, I was glad to have watched that Essential Training tutorial. I usually rely on the same tools and being reminded of the many others was helpful. I also don’t work a lot with masks so it was good to get some practice with those tools. The Essential Training tutorial also inspired me to start using the Lightroom app on my phone to take pictures. I really like the option to automatically sync my phone photos with Lightroom. I normally would sync my phone photos with Dropbox and then import them into Lightroom which was easy, but this takes out a step.


I had taken too long of a break from drawing and got back to it, briefly, at the end of the month by doing a quick pencil sketch based on a postcard that came with a Negroni sticker Holly had gotten me for Christmas.

I also started a SkillShare tutorial, Procreate for Beginners which I have found fun and helpful. I’ve used Procreate before but haven’t really made the effort yet to learn a lot about it. I really enjoy drawing with it and am hoping this tutorial will jumpstart being more active with it.


As I mentioned in December, I started reading and working on the exercises from Alice LaPlante’s The Making of a Story. I’m through Chapter 4 and am still finding it worthwhile. It’s one of the better writing books I’ve read and the exercises have made me reflect on how I go about my writing practice. It has also helped generate 2 or 3 ideas for new stories.


During our winter break, Holly and I went to see the Modigliani Up Close exhibit at the Barnes Foundation. I had read a little of the associated book prior to seeing the exhibit and finished it over the course of the next couple of weeks. Both the exhibit and the book were interesting but got a little to into the weeds for me. The exhibit was based around new research involving close scientific examination of Modigliani’s paintings and sculptures.

I am a fan of some of Emma Cline’s short stories as well as her novel, The Girls. Her story collection, Daddy, has been on my to read list since it came out, and I finally got around to reading it. I was not disappointed. I had read a couple of the included stories before, most likely in The New Yorker, but most, I had not. I felt a little lukewarm about the first 2 stories, What Can You Do with a General and Los Angeles, but I loved the rest of the collection. I particularly liked The Nanny and Marion which I found quite unsettling.

Speaking of unsettling, I also read Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School. Last year, I read Olivia Laing’s Crudo which is loosely based on Acker’s life and includes quotes from her work. Before reading Crudo, I knew who Acker was but had never read any of her books. Blood and Guts was quite the introduction. I found that some of the art work didn’t really contribute much but the text was fascinating. I’ve read a lot over the years, but this was startlingly unique. Despite it’s surrealism, I found myself emotionally involved in the trials of the main character, Janey.

January 2023 Reading Update
January 2023 Reading Update

Books Read in 2023

So far, I’ve read 3 books in 2023:

This Creative Midlife Posts in 2023

Disclaimers: Comments are moderated. Some links, such as those to Amazon, are affiliate links, through which, I may gain a small commission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *